EDITORIAL: This is the right time for tough measures for all

Sunday March 22 2020

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Patients get screened for high temperature before they enter the health facility. Photo | Cyril NDEGEYA  

RWANDA TODAY
By RWANDA TODAY
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To many Rwandans, the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic seemed far away until the first case was reported on Friday, March 13. Now everyone realises just how rapid the virus can spread and the uncertainty it brings to every aspect of a country.

This is indeed a tough time that calls for tough measures. For starters, the government has suspended schools, and public gatherings. A decree was imposed against the hiking of food prices in markets.

People have been working from home and a successful campaign on washing hands and social distancing has also been conducted.

The central bank introduced a Rwf50 billion extended lending cushion to banks to be accessed for the next six months to mitigate their liquidity challenges during this pandemic.

On top of that, mobile money operators suspended money transfer charges. And oh, before I forget, the government finally decided to suspend all flights for at least 30 days. In a nutshell, the actions are there. But what should we expect next?

One thing is for sure: We should prepare for the worst. Many experts including the World Health Organization (WHO) predict that this pandemic is likely to continue into the unforeseeable future, and it will affect the whole world.

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The most culpable are those who will take it for granted and those who will fail to prepare for the worst.

Authorities need to ensure that information about the pandemic is centralised and disseminated to everyone in Rwanda in a timely manner. The media, while endeavouring to keep the government accountable, must be as transparent as possible in our reporting.

We are not experts, therefore, we should explain what we know, what we don’t know, and clearly state who our sources of information are. We should bear in mind that communication about the pandemic is likely going to be in competition with rumorus and fake news.

Therefore, both the government and media must realise that timely and proactive alerts are their best weapon against purveyors of misinformation.

Government needs to set aside a sizeable investment into testing and isolation facilities for coronavirus patients – but for matters of respecting laws – every urgent decision should be made in correspondence with what our laws say. It is probably the only way a republic can stay sane and avoid contradictions during a crisis.

One way or the other, the pandemic will fade at one point and each country will ease back to normality.

There will be plenty of time to reflect on the decisions that were made during this pandemic. This period should, therefore, be used to unite the people, strengthen our institutional response to epidemics that are as bad or worse.

In a nutshell, if this coronavirus pandemic does not leave our institutions and medical facilities in a better and stronger shape, then we can all but agree that the virus has won this battle.

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